Q&A about Fitness Class Questions and Answers About the Parts of a Group Fitness Class

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This article was written and/or edited and updated on December 20, 2021.

Questions and Answers about Warm-Up

Dynamic warm-up includes moving all muscles and joints as much as possible. A fitness instructor will lead you through these movements, making sure that each of the major joints — shoulder, hip, knee, as well as wrists and ankles — is involved.

The purpose of warming up is to prepare your muscles. It is believed that you need to increase your muscles core temperature and dynamic stretching can accomplish this. Static stretching (not moving) during warm-up can lead to your muscles’ core temperature dropping. Although your muscles may be stretched and feel loose, they will actually be less elastic and not as powerful.

The jury is still out, and research argues both ways, but it is generally assumed that warming up first will reduce risk of injury while exercising. At the very least, it might prevent or lessen Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (a common result of exercising, especially if it is more intense than usual).

Even if it doesn't reduce your risk of injury, doing slow movements first seems like a natural way to move at the beginning of an exercise class.

During warm-up, breathing and slow movement of all joints through a gentle range-of-motion helps to warm up the muscles and get ready for the cardiovascular portion of the class.

If you are late to class, it is the warm-up you are missing. This is a planned portion of the class and it really shouldn't be missed. 2

For older adults, who require a longer warm-up, this period should last 10-15 minutes prior to cardiovascular exercise or strength training. 3

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Questions and Answers about Cardiovascular Exercise

During cardiovascular exercise, you are exercising your heart and the entire cardiovascular system. When doing movements in fitness class, your brain is also being challenged to keep up with the steps, and more blood flow is occurring in the brain.

To be absolutely certain that you are reaching the right heart rate level, you can learn to count your heartbeats.

Here is how it's done: Subtract your age from 220. That is your maximum heart rate. Then calculate 50% and 85% of that number because you do not want to exercise at your maximum heart rate. You will end up with two numbers which is a target range for your heart rate to be while exercising.

Example: A 70-year-old woman would subtract 70 from 220 to get a Maximum Heart Rate of 150 (220-70=150). However, she does not want to exercise with her heart beating at 150 beats per minute. Instead, she should exercise at 50-85% of her Maximum Heart Rate which would be between 75 and 128 (150 X .50 = 75 and 150 X .85 = 128). Every time she checks her heart rate while exercising, it should be between those two numbers.

This depends upon your age, but a general recommendation is 75-150 minutes a week.

One session is usually 10-15 minutes or as long as 30 minutes.

As suggested above there are two things to consider:

It does not have to be the same each time. There are many forms of cardiovascular exercise: running, walking, swimming, for example. (But see the question below for more about this.) If your sessions are only 10-15 minutes, then you should probably do it 5-6 days a week.

Yes and no. If you are using your walk as a replacement for cardiovascular exercise in class, you should be sure that your heart rate gets to the right level for you.

Strolling is not cardiovascular exercise. To achieve cardiovascular exercise (in other words, to get your heart rate up) you must do a power-walk, moving along at a comfortable speed for you, checking your heart rate, and making sure that you sustain the speed and the appropriate heartrate for 10-15 minutes. You could also wear weights on your arms or ankles to increase resistance.

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Questions and Answers about Strength Training

This requires a bit of experimentation and patience. The weight you ultimately choose should allow you to do two sets of 10 so that when you reach the 10th movement, you can feel your muscle aching or "burning" and you know it is very tired. You should feel at the end of the second set that you cannot possibly do another lift.

Remember, too, that your energy levels will vary from day to day. Sometimes a lighter weight is necessary.

If you have an injury, you also may have to adapt to a lighter weight (or no weight) until such time that the injury is healed.

Strength training is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.

It is completely different than cardiovascular exercise and research has shown that it is very valuable in helping to keep us strong.

While cardiovascular exercise is working your heart and the cardiovascular system, strength training is strengthening the other muscles of the body.

There are two somewhat conflicting methods to consider here:

First method: Pick up a weight, and then try to do 8-10 repetitions of any arm and shoulder exercise you prefer. Then repeat. If you felt no difficulty in that, try with the next heavier weight. (This may have to be done over several days because you will naturally tire if you keep trying over and over again, each time with a heavier weight.) Once you have found a weight that makes it a challenge, continue with that one until you feel that you need a greater challenge.

Second method: Choose a medium-sized weight and lift it for as many repetitions as you can — essentially until you can no longer lift it. If you do many repetitions beyond #10, you probably need a heavier weight.

See also:

Questions and Answers about Stretch

As with warm-up, it's not clear how much stretching actually helps the muscles to cool-down (which hopefully will prevent some DOMS). However, most people just enjoy stretching, especially when combined with deep breathing and some thoughtful, meditative moments. Stretches should feel good and should help to reduce the heart rate after active exercise.

Generally speaking, it is assumed that a stretch needs 15-30 seconds. But, again, research is somewhat limited on how long a stretch lasts translates into how well a muscle feels.

There are static and dynamic stretches.

Static stretching means a stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 10 to 30 seconds. Static stretching is the most common form of stretching found in general fitness classes and is considered safe.

A lunge with a twist is a dynamic stretching exercise that engages your hips, legs, and core muscles. Dynamic stretching may improve range of motion. This is more common in warm-up than in the final section of the class, but it is sometimes used here as well. Dynamic stretching: means your body is still continuously moving, even while stretching.

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I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. ↩︎

  2. Here is a general discussion of the research which has been done about the benefits (or lack thereof) of warming up before exercising: Stretching before exercise: an evidence based approach↩︎

  3. The warm-up session can be shorter with younger adults. ↩︎